As Interviewed By Ames, March 17, 2013

Cacki: In Her Own Words

SafePlace is a non-profit that is for helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. And theyíve recently merged with another non-profit to help more with children. I volunteer in the legal advocacy program, which is the program that helps, usually domestic violence survivors, who are going to court to get a protective order, to keep the abusive person away from them. Itís a legal process, but I donít actually work as a lawyer. What I do is listen to people, explain the process, help them through it, talk to their family members, talk to them, give them information on how to stay out of those kinds of relationships, give them information about SafePlace, and other services that it offers like counseling or support groups, child care, job preparation, things like that.

Itís [I talk to people for] one day, itís one time, itís for a couple of hours. Some people I might talk to and listen to off and on for three hours and others of them I might listen to her, talk to her for 5 minutes. Some of them I might just help them through the maze of the hallways to the backroom thatís called the safe room so they donít have to sit in the courtroom. We have a special room where they can go, to wait for their case to some upÖ

Iíve only been volunteering for a year, and I go twice a month, so Iíd say [Iíve talked to and done this process with] around 60 people. I had to go through a 40 hour general SafePlace training, which everybody who volunteers at SafePlace has to go through, no matter what you want to do there, if you want to work with kids, or work in the shelter, or if you just want to help with their filing, or you want to do the hospital, they have a hospital advocacy program, everybody has to go through the 40 hour training. And then, if you want to do the legal advocacy program, there is an additional 15 or 20 hours.

Iíd say itís more non-Spanish speaking, but there are a significant number of Spanish speaking people. Iíd say 30 to 40 percent. Thatís just my own guess. But if youíre asking if itís more of a problem with an immigrant population, or a low income population, I donít think it is. Itís kind of across the board, but a lot of times, if you have money, you might go to your own lawyer. You might not go through this protective order system. We probably see a little bit of a skewed population of more lower-income people, but domestic violence in general and sexual assault in general, both of those problems are across socio-economic lines.

Because generally what they [victims] think is, well it was like a one-time thing. It was just a bad moment. But the truth about domestic violence is, itís cyclical. So, the emotional abuse, the yelling, the demeaning talk, the criticisms, all these kinds of things, they build, and then they get worse. And then, after thereís a really bad episode, and she gets hurt and she goes and files for the protective order, but then, he changes and becomes really, really nice again. So itís a very cyclical process. But then thereís a lot of women that are just like, thatís it, Iím done, Iím done, Iím done, not happening.

I saw one case where there was a woman with a mental disability and she had changed her mind [no longer wanted the order]. She didn't really understand everything; she didn't have all the faculties other people did. And one of the attorneys worked with her and worked with her, and talked to her and listened to her, and explained over and over again, 'You know this can happen again, we don't want you to suffer this again.' 'It's not right for you to have to do this.' And finally she did agree.

So there's kind of a fine line between talking someone into something that they don't want, which is basically taking more power away from them, and respecting their wishes. And I kind of err on the side of respecting their wishes. Thatís what they're saying; they want to give the person another chance. Even though I don't think that the person deserves it and I don't think they should give them another chance, they're often convinced that they should. And, itís not our job to take more power away from them and say, "Well, I say you should do this". They're already in a situation of powerlessness. It doesn't really help, I don't think, to have us come along and say 'Hearís what you should do'. They already have someone telling them what to do.

So this is what Iíve read and tell me if Iím right, but it doesnít matter who you are, how much money you have, what ethnicity you are, what language you speak, anything, it just, happens.